In Depth

Maternity pay: Do British mothers have the worst deal in Europe?

The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe, so what do mothers in other countries receive?

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British mothers have one of the least generous maternity pay deals in Europe, according to new research.

The UK was ranked 22nd out of 24 European countries that offer statutory maternity pay, in a survey by the Trades Union Congress.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said that many parents in the UK were forced back to work early "to pay the bills".

But the Department for Work and Pensions dismissed the TUC and claimed the UK maternity leave system was "one of the most generous in the world".

What are women in the UK entitled to?

Most employed mothers are entitled to 52 weeks' maternity leave, of which 39 weeks are covered by statutory maternity pay.

For the first six weeks of maternity leave, statutory maternity pay is usually paid at 90 per cent of average weekly earnings.

For the remaining 33 weeks women are entitled to receive £139.58 a week or 90 per cent of their weekly wage, whichever is lower.

Women who earn less than £112 a week are not eligible for any paid maternity leave.

Some companies offer a more generous maternity pay.

The TUC is campaigning for women to receive the equivalent of the minimum wage, which would work out at £243.25 a week, throughout their 39-week statutory paid maternity leave.

How does UK maternity pay compare to Europe?

The TUC report says that most mothers on the continent are eligible for "decently paid" maternity leave for considerably longer than in the UK.

It defines decently-paid leave as two-thirds or more of a woman's usual salary.

At the top of the table is Croatia, which offers decently paid maternity leave for six months.

Next is Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic where women receive decently paid maternity pay for at least four months.

In Estonia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Malta and Switzerland this lasts for more than three months, says The Guardian.

Only Ireland and Slovakia offer a worse deal than the UK, the TUC says.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the TUC rankings do not take into account the length of maternity leave available in the UK.

"The truth is the UK's maternity system is one of the most generous in the world and most mothers can take up to 39 weeks of guaranteed pay," a spokesman said. "This is nearly three times the EU minimum requirement of 14 weeks."

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